Tom Dumoulin says he is not just racing in the Middle East as training for his return to the Giro d’Italia in spring, but has ambitions to add to his palmarès.
The Dutchman lines up at the inaugural UAE Tour on Sunday (February 24), where he says his Sunweb team are targeting overall victory.
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While many Grand Tour contenders treat early-season stage races as preparation for bigger ambitions, Dumoulin and team-mate Wilco Kelderman will be looking take the top step.
Speaking ahead of the race, Dumoulin said: “It’s a WorldTour race, so it’s definitely not just a build up [to the Giro].
“It’s a race we’d like to win, or at least do well on GC.
“Normally at the first race of the season I’m good, then in the spring not so good.
“I’m expecting the same kind of rhythm from there.”
Dumoulin also opened his 2018 season in the Middle East at the Abu Dhabi Tour, which has combined with the Dubai Tour to form the new week-long UAE race.
He finished third overall there, his best stage finish also third on the stage to Jebel Hafeet – a climb that will feature this year.
Dumoulin is set to ride both the Giro and the Tour de France this season, after a remarkably consistent double attempt last year.
He finished second in both races in 2018, falling just behind two Team Sky riders – Chris Froome in the Giro, and Geraint Thomas in the Tour.
The UAE Tour opens with a 16km team time trial – a discipline his Sunweb team are well drilled in, having finished second in the World Championship TTT last year.
Dumoulin added: “There’s always a question mark around how the shape will be, but I’m sure it will be alright.
“I did the Abu Dhabi Tour quite a few times but never the Dubai Tour. Now it’s combined, I’m excited.
“I’ve done really well in the past, last year maybe not so well but years before it was nice.
“We hope to win the GC with the team.
“We have Wilco Kelderman in really good shape here so we can play two cards.”
The UAE Tour finishes on Saturday (March 2), and features the TTT stage, three expected sprints, one for the puncheurs and two mountain finishes.